Competing in Design Challenges

Competing Successfully in a Design Challenge

There are many types of challenges found within the Design track. Here are the primary challenge types, each with interesting problems to solve:

Wireframes / Information Architecture



Application Front-End Design

Design First to Finish (F2F)

Something for Everyone

Some challenges feel like second nature, while others push your limits. Some last only a few hours, while others run for a few weeks. And some require a single file to be uploaded, while others require detailed documentation and your participation through multiple phases. We know you’re sure to find something to suit your interests!

Keys to Success:

  • Read every challenge carefully and understand submission requirements
  • Ask questions in the challenge forum
  • Understand how winners are chosen
  • Register and submit within the deadlines

The Phases of a Design Challenge

Many design challenges follow some variation of this structure:

1. Challenge Registration

2. Forum Q&A and Design Creation

3. Checkpoint Submission

4. Feedback & Checkpoint Winners

5. Round 2 Submission

6. Review & Winner Selection

7. Final Fixes

How to Compete

Here’s a step-by-step guide to a typical design challenge:

1. Register for the Challenge

When registering for a challenge, you’ll need to agree to some Terms (learn about Terms and documentation here) before you can view and download challenge files. Once registered, you’re ready to compete!

2. Gather Font Names and Other Info for Declaration

Topcoder has approved hundreds of fonts you can use within your design, but you must declare them when you submit. This is so the client fully understands what licensing may be needed when your design is implemented, should it win. Stock art works the same way, if the client has allowed stock art in the challenge. Read the policies to fully understand what’s allowed and how to declare your fonts and other elements.


If you want to use fonts that are not on the list, just ask in your challenge forum!

3. Bullet-proof Your Solution

Read the requirements and associated forum posts carefully. After you submit, your design will be screened. If your submission contains only elements you created yourself (or approved third party elements the challenge holder has given permission to use), and you have submitted the correct files and correctly made font/stock declarations, you will pass screening and the client will see your design.

4. Get Familiar with “Checkpoint rounds”

We know designers work best when they get feedback on their designs. That’s why many challenges have two distinct Rounds with a “checkpoint” in the middle. During the checkpoint, the customer reviews Round 1 submissions and gives feedback to the competitors to ensure they are heading in the right direction. Checkpoint prizes are also awarded to those who have the best designs so far.

During Round 2, competitors finalize their designs using the feedback they received at the checkpoint. Competitors must submit again in Round 2 to receive any checkpoint prize they may have won in Round 1.

Challenges with a checkpoint have a unique set of deadlines and round eligibility rules, so it’s important to read the challenge details carefully and look for this information before you compete

5. Get Questions Answered

Each challenge has detailed information within the challenge page that you should follow. If you can’t find your answers there, you can visit that challenge’s forum and ask questions. Your fellow members, challenge copilot and the client will do their best to help clarify anything you need. It’s great to ask questions!

6. Submit Your Solution

You will submit your solution and make declarations via the legacy Topcoder Studio challenge page. Plan to submit a couple of hours before the actual deadline to allow yourself ample time to complete the upload to Topcoder’s servers in case any unforeseen issues arise.


Double-check your work. Be sure you’ve got both your submission and source files structured correctly and you’ve declared your fonts and other important information before you hit submit..

7. Win! Provide Final Fixes & Get Paid

After you’ve been chosen as the winner of the challenge, you will almost always have “final fixes” to complete. These are usually small design fixes that were either not correct or missing from the requirements. You must complete your final fixes within a short timeframe in order to be eligible to receive your entire payment. Once you’ve submitted your final work, your payment is posted within 7 days to your Payments page, where you may then choose to have your payment sent to you via different payment methods. Learn more about getting paid here.